Members of the audience at Congress Of the People rally
Recorded: September 09, 2007
Posted: September 15, 2007
With general elections looming, the Congress of the People (C.O.P.) held their first anniversary celebrations with a rally titled "Real Red: The Event". Thousands of people from throughout the country wearing red C.O.P. jerseys packed into Woodford Square, a venue that has traditionally been politically associated with the ruling People's National Movement. Police reportedly estimated the crowd size as between 25,000 to 30,000.
From as early as 12:30 p.m., new local pop/gospel band Rev Up entertained the swelling crowd with a slew of hit songs from David Rudder, Celine Dion, 'Ras Shorty I' and Bob Marley. They were followed by dynamic band Dil-E-Nadan, for whom the crowd surged forward to the front of the stage to get a close view of. Dil-E-Nadan did not disappoint, treating the enthusiastic audience to a pulsing mix of Chutney, Reggae and Soca songs to which the crowd danced and waved C.O.P. emblazoned rags, banners and posters.
Following this high tempo start, things took a more settled and mellow turn with the official start of the programme where religious leaders from the Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Spiritual Baptist community each contributed their unique prayers.
Arrival of the Political Leader of the COP, Winston Dookeran
Following introductions of various C.O.P. members, C.O.P. Political Leader Winston Dookeran made his way through the crowd to the large stage amidst an atmosphere of excitement and energy. This procession was led by the Shiv Shakti Dancers and the Mt. D'or African Dancers who danced on stage as Dookeran slowly made his way through the crowd, accompanied by the Laventille Rhythm Section, Unity Tassa Drummers and Chinese Dragon dancers. When Dookeran eventually reached the stage, the mood was frenzied, as he waved to the thousands of excited, flag-waving and whistle-blowing supporters, as the song "The Journey Now Start" played in the background and red confetti littered the air.
Presenter, Inshan Ishmel, declared that Woodford Square no longer belongs to PNM as it now belonged to the C.O.P. as he proceeded to introduce members of the C.O.P. team to the stage. One surprise in this group was the appearance of Marlene Coudray, the wife of controversial PNM MP, Larry Achong, who graced the stage in C.O.P. colours.
The Congress of the People unveiled the make-up of four committees: Foodprices and Poverty, Justice, Security and the Economy as part of its strategy in contesting the upcoming general elections. In doing so, they unveiled several prominent C.O.P. members including FEEL director Clive Pantin, economist Selby Wilson, Attorney Clyde Weatherhead, former Senate President Michael Williams, Sheilah Solomon, Councilor Sahadeo Boondoo, former Minister of National Security Joseph Toney and Brigadier Joseph Theodore.
C.O.P. deputy leader Wendy Lee Yuen, speaking on behalf of the Foodprices and Poverty committee declared that C.O.P. aims to eradicate poverty, not just reduce it. She outlined C.O.P.'s plan to bring T&T into the Information Age by distributing 100, 000 computers every year. Speaking about the agricultural industry, she highlighted that the large-scale super-farm approach to farming has decimated small farms all over the world and criticized the government's proposed super-farms saying that they are capital intensive with machines and chemicals replacing people. The impact of this in the developed world she said, has been polluted water, degraded land, soil erosion, and anxiety about chemical pesticide residues in the food chain.
|C.O.P. deputy leader Wendy Lee Yuen|
Attorney Timothy Hamel-Smith, speaking on the topic of justice, declared that the country is in a battle against crime, and C.O.P. has the best strategy to deal with crime. He stated that C.O.P. will re-balance the justice system in favour of law-abiding citizens, simplify and streamline the prosecution and court system so that bureaucracy and technicalities do not get in the way of justice. Saying that the winds of change are blowing in T&T, he told the crowd that Winston Dookeran is the only leader with the vision and political will to implement the programmes.
To the delight of the crowd, presenter Ganga Singh jabbed at both the UNC and PNM, saying that Manning wants what Panday already has: a bunch of fawning, spineless sycophants.
Ex-UNC member and present C.O.P. MP, Gillian Lucky, was in a fiery mood as she blasted the PNM government for continuing to disregard the constitution of T&T. Speaking on the topic of National Security, she commented that the government has failed miserably in the fight against crime with detection rates at an all-time low. She said that C.O.P. has always put people before politics; and thanks to this C.O.P. stance, DNA legislation was passed and as such, the Akiel Chambers case could now be re-opened.
Gerald Yetming condemned the present government for their giveaways, theft and corruption and highlighted the CEPEP payout, the Brian Lara Stadium, the overruns at the Scarborough Hospital, and the hundreds of millions being spent on UTT as examples of this. Outlining Dookeran's experiences and qualifications he ended with the refrain, "Dookeran is the man."
Congress of the People Leader Winston Dookeran
The Political Leader of the Congress of the People Winston Dookeran came to the podium as the excitement in the crowed reached fever pitch. Dookeran announced that the day would go down in history as the day that the nation came together, signaling an era of new politics, new purpose and new directions. Describing Manning's empire as being built on the exercise of raw power, he called for an end to maximum leadership and said the Manning empire was now collapsing under him; "...the Manning administration is by far the most corrupt and the most lawless in the history of Trinidad and Tobago, if not the region."
He accused the present government of being controlled by a cartel, who originate, award and share the spoils from the mega projects that run from hundreds of millions of dollars to billions of dollars. Dookeran declared, "We must move from the politics that serves the wealthy and powerful, to the politics that opens up opportunities for the less fortunate among us; we must move from the politics of preference, to the politics of equality that shapes a new world."
In his 50 minute address, Dookeran was sharply critical of the PNM and UNC whom he blamed for the ongoing polarization of the country. However, he closed by inviting members of these two parties as well as NJAC to join the C.O.P. in their new political thrust, in which the politics of reason would replace the politics of brutal suppression of dissent.
COP's 'Real Red' First Anniversary Rally in pictures:
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